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Politics

Gov. Ron DeSantis Signs Florida Voting Restrictions Into Law

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Florida is the latest state to enact new voting restrictions. The measures limit voting by mail and ballot drop boxes, among other changes. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed them into law this morning. WLRN's Danny Rivero covers voting in Florida and joins us on Skype. Hi, Danny.

DANNY RIVERO, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Governor DeSantis signed this bill in an unusual setting, live on Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX AND FRIENDS")

RON DESANTIS: So right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country. I'm actually going to sign it right here. It's going to take effect. So...

(APPLAUSE)

STEVE DOOCY: There you go.

DESANTIS: ...The bill is signed.

SHAPIRO: Very public event, on television - Danny, tell us about this move by the governor.

RIVERO: Right. So there was a bit of controversy with how this signing took effect this morning. In Florida here, we have a Florida government - state government TV channel called the Florida Channel, which was created to ensure public access to official events very much like this and signings and et cetera. And this was not on it. This was given as an exclusive to Fox News, which is - you have to pay to watch it. No pool cameras were allowed in. No local reporters were allowed in.

So this was very much an official government step, a signing of a major piece of legislation, and for a lot of intents and purposes, it was not open at all to the public. It looked a lot like a campaign event. And that has already raised some pretty serious ethical questions. I spoke today with J.C. Planas, who is a former Republican state representative here in Florida who is now in elections and ethics attorney. And here's what he told me about this morning.

JC PLANAS: The fact that he is commingling his official duties as governor with his reelection campaign, even though he hasn't officially announced, I think is very troubling.

RIVERO: And, of course, Governor DeSantis is up for reelection next year in 2022, and he's also being floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2024.

SHAPIRO: Well, tell us more about exactly what this new law would do.

RIVERO: Right. It does a series of things to Florida's election laws. It passed almost completely along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor of it. And what it does is it cuts back on the availability of ballot drop boxes and places more stipulations on the use of those drop boxes. It limits how many ballots someone might be able to collect from someone who's not in their family, which is the way a lot of people with disabilities and elderly voters vote. It adds new voter ID requirements and restrictions for mail-in ballots. And it makes voters who request vote-by-mail ballots have to do it more frequently if they want to continue voting that way. I will say, voters that voted in 2020 by mail are grandfathered into that part of it. And it also gives - it also limits the distribution of food and water for anyone waiting in line at the polls so that only certain people can pass water to people waiting in line.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, what are opponents saying?

RIVERO: So Democrats take the stance that this law harms the ability of people, especially the elderly and the disabled, to be able to vote. And there is also a lot of speculation that this could actually end up backfiring and hurting Republicans who in Florida have traditionally done a lot better with elderly voters and voting by mail. And I will say that there has already been a lawsuit filed on this. There's not been an official response from the governor of the state of Florida, but that is something that's in the works.

SHAPIRO: That's WLRN's Danny Rivero. Thanks a lot.

RIVERO: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.